Studies tell us that sitting for long periods of time throughout the day is unhealthy, and those who lead a sedentary lifestyle are more prone to obesity, heart disease, and even premature death. The good news? According to a recent Australian study, simply replacing a couple hours of sitting with standing can provide big benefits.
In a study involving nearly 800 middle-aged to elderly men and women, researchers found that standing up more during the day has a positive impact on both blood sugar and cholesterol levels, which in turn supports a healthy heart. Specifically, they determined that replacing just two hours of sitting with standing:
- lowered average triglycerides by 11 percent;
- lowered blood sugar levels by 2 percent; and
- increased HDL and lowered LDL levels in the body.
Further, when sitting was replaced with walking or running, even greater benefits were seen. Triglyceride and blood sugar levels dropped even more, and overall body mass index fell by 11 percent on average. Waist size also decreased by an average of 3 inches.
Study authors stress that standing more frequently is a simple change most people can incorporate into their daily lives. At home, activities such as cooking, talking on the phone, or paying bills can be done on your feet. And in many offices, standing desks and chairless meetings are being incorporated into workplace health initiatives.
In 2012 Massachusetts was one of the first states to adopt ground-breaking nutrition standards in its public schools with the goal of reducing childhood obesity and promoting healthy growth and development. According to a new study led by Northeastern University in Boston, the Bay State has done an exemplary job of demonstrating how quickly others can adapt to health-driven initiatives.
The NOURISH Study (Nutrition Opportunities to Understand Reforms Involving Student Health) included nearly 75 schools in 37 districts across the state. Though the new standards have only been in effect for about a year, researchers noted significant improvements already in regulating unhealthy food and drink items. Compliance rates for the new standards increased from 13% to 69% in middle schools and from 28% to 80% in high schools.
Artificial sweeteners, white bread, and trans fats are among those items banned altogether in Massachusetts schools (fryolators are now prohibited), and additional restrictions have been placed on sodium, fat and sugar content. Perhaps most importantly, the new standards apply to so-called competitive foods—those foods and beverages sold in vending machines and school stores, or offered as à la carte items in lunchrooms.
In 2014 similar requirements went into effect for all U.S. schools participating in the National School Lunch Program (under the “Smart Snacks in School” regulation), but those requirements have been met with considerable resistance. Authors of this study hope their findings—published online this month in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics—will help institutions across the country see how easy it can be to embrace healthier standards for children and teens.